Having won 1-0 away at Myanmar, the Indian National Football Team takes on Kyrgyzstan in the second match of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. Kyrgyzstan come into this match having beaten Macau 1-0 at home in their previous match. India and Kyrgyzstan have squared off on three occasions with the Blue Tigers having won twice in Nehru Cup 2007 and 2009 but Kyrgyzstan won the last encounter in the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup

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India

The Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore should bring back happy memories for Constantine and his boys as this was the very ground where the Blue Tigers notched up a 1-0 win against Guam in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The Sree Kanteerava Stadium, home to Federation Cup champions Bengaluru FC is expected to be packed for the encounter and give the Indian team a much needed push for this crucial match.The Indian team comes into this match on a six match winning streak which included a 2-0 win over Nepal in a friendly last week. Kyrgyzstan though are expected to provide a much stronger test to the Blue Tigers.

Sandesh Jhingan has emerged as the leader in Indian defense

Sandesh Jhingan has emerged as the leader in Indian defense

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been the first choice custodian for the Blue Tigers for the last year or so and the Stabæk FC custodian is expected to start under the posts for the Indian Team. Sandhu has been putting in some good performances for the team and will be expected to carry on this trend in this crucial match. The Indian defense which until an year ago looked inexperienced is beginning to take a more settled look. Sandesh Jhingan who scored the opening goal against Nepal will lead the Indian back-four and along with the lesser experienced Anas Edathodika, will be expected to keep the Kyrgyzstan striking duo of Mirlan Murzaev and Vitalij Lux under check. Arnab Mondal who until sometime was Jhingan’ s  partner will start on the bench. The rise of Anas Edathodika in the last season is a promising sign for the national team which until sometime back had only Arnab Mondal and Sandesh Jhingan as the center back options. Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das from arch rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal respectively will occupy the right and the left back spots. At 23 both Das and Kotal are vital members of the national team and should be part of the squad for a long time to come.

It is the midfield that is a cause of concern for Constantine with Eugenson Lyngdoh not having had the best of seasons for Bengaluru FC. Eugenson though should still start alongside Rowllin Borges who will be entrusted with the task of breaking down the opposition attacks. Mohammed Rafique who had a good game against Nepal could also been seen later in the game. It is the wings however that are a bigger worry for Constantine. Udanta Singh burst down the right flank to set up the winner for Chhetri against Myanmar but the highly rated youngster is missing this time due to an injury and Jackichand’ s performances in the national team colors haven’t been encouraging. Similarly Chhetri has been employed on the left flank but as was evident in the match against Myanmar, he was at his best when he played in the center behind in the two strikers. With not a lot of options for him it looks like Constantine may go for Jackichand on the right and Chhetri on the left with a potential second half appearance for Bikas Jairu.

Jeje Lalpekhlua and Robin Singh automatically pick themselves as the two strikers in the 4-4-2 formation that Constantine is likely to adopt. The Mizo striker scored against Nepal and would be looking to continue his good form in this match as well. Robin Singh didn’t have the best of games against Nepal but with CK Vineeth out injured, his physicality adds a different dimension to the Indian attack.

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Narayan Das, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pritam Kotal; Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Rowllin Borges, Jackichand Singh; Robin Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua

Probable Starting XI

Probable Starting XI

Kyrgyzstan

The White Falcons as they are popularly called, had a good run in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers where they gave a good account of themselves finishing third in their group which also included a win over Jordan. Ranked 132 in the world, Kyrgyzstan would be looking to give their campaign a boast by getting something form this match. Kyrgyzstan  boasts of a lot of players who were born and brought up in Europe and this has positively affected their performance.

Under the tutelage of Aleksandr Krestinin, the Kyrgyz have a couple of injury worries to deal with in the defense. 29 year old Pavel Matiash is is likely to start under the goal for the visitors. Matiash plays for Maziya Sports Club in Maldives and started against Bengaluru FC in their recent fixture. Inspirational defender and key player Azamat Baymatov who scored the winner against Macau has been ruled out of the match against India and so has been left back Valery Kichin. In the absence Baymatov, Tamirlan Kozubaev and Akram Umarov are expected to start in the heart of defense for Kyrgyzstan. Viktor Maier who was brought up in Germany and  plays for FC Emmen in the second division of Netherlands is expected to start on the right side of the defense while Amanbek Manybekov  will occupy the opposite left flank.

31 year old Edgar Bernhardt is a key figure in Kyrgyzstan team

31 year old Edgar Bernhardt is a key figure in Kyrgyzstan team

In the four man midfield Pavel Sidorenko is expected to start on the left side of the midfield while 31 year old Edgar Bernhardt who plays in Germany is expected to line up on the right. Edgar Bernhardt is likely to be handed the captain armband for this match. Both Sidorenko and Bernhardt are important players in the starting lineup and are likely to feed the strikers with crosses from the flanks. Anton Zemlianukhin, the Kyrgyz player of the year for 2015 is expected to be employed as the attacking midfielder behind the front two. Zemlianukhin plays for Sukhothai in Thailand and was part of the Kyrgyz squad that featured in the 2009 Nehru Cup. 23 year old Farhat Musabekov was a regular face in the Kyrgyz U-21 side and is likely to make it to the starting lineup. Farhat currently plays in Uzbekistan for Olmaliq FK.

Aleksandr Krestinin has a lot of quality options in the midfield with the likes of Bakhtiar Duyshobekov and Ahlidin Israilov travelling to India as well and he would be looking to dominate over the Blue Tigers in the middle third. The striking duo of Mirlan Murzaev and Vitalij Lux pick themselves up automatically. While Murzaev plies his trade in Turkey, Lux plays in Germany

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Pavel Matiash; Amanbek Manybekov, Tamirlan Kozubaev, Akram Umarov, Viktor Maier; Pavel Sidorenko, Anton Zemlianukhin, Farhat Musabekov, Edgar Bernhardt; Vitalij Lux , Mirlan Murzaev

Prediction

India 1-1 Kyrgyzstan

India maybe ranked 32 places above Kyrgyzstan but the difference in the FIFA Rankings is not a fair indication of the pedigree of the two teams. The Blue Tigers have always struggled against the physicality of the central Asian teams and a draw seems to be the most likely outcome of this match.

Blast From The Past

We leave you with Sunil Chhetri’ s penalty goal that fetched India a 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in the 2009 Nehru Cup